Xavier Niel pledges €200m AI investment


The investment aims to push France to forefront of the AI advancement race 

Xavier Niel, the founder and CEO of telecoms group Iliad, is set to invest €200 million in AI projects in an effort to ensure that Europe remains competitive against US and China in the field. 

“We want – and we can – create a European AI champion. It’s a question of sovereignty: to protect our data, we need platforms established on our territory,” said Niel. 

The investment includes the purchase of an NVIDA supercomputer, said to be the most advanced supercomputing platform in the world; the establishment of a research centre in Paris; the creation of an annual AI conference; and providing funding for startups. 

“To influence the AI market, you need computing power. To have computing power, you need supercomputers. And to have supercomputers, you have to invest massively,” Niel continued. 

In this regard, Iliad has also been pushing to scale up its cloud subsidiary Scaleway, attempting to develop a European cloud system that can act a as an alternative to those offered by US tech companies, like Microsoft and Google. 

However, Niel and Europe at large have an uphill battle on their hands when it comes to AI. Major US tech firms like Google, Microsoft and Meta, are already investing billions on AI R&D, seemingly giving the country a significant lead when it comes to the new technology. China, while somewhat lagging behind in this initial AI frenzy, has plans to massively scale up its AI investments over the coming years, with some industry reports suggesting it will exceed $38 billion in 2027. 

Combined, the North America and Asia Pacific regions are leading the global AI market, according to analysts at GlobalData, with a 63% market share, compared to France and Western Europe’s 19%. 

Nonetheless, Europe racing to close the gap, with Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, announcing a new initiative earlier this month to give fast-track access to AI startups to high-performance computers to train their models.  

“Europe has now become a leader in supercomputing, with three out of the five most powerful supercomputers in the world. We need to capitalise on that,” von der Laden said in a speech to MEPs. 

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